The Lakers’ 2013-2014 season has officially become a proving ground for former NBA Lottery picks who needed to rebrand themselves and prove they belong.
The Lakers beat the Utah Jazz in Los Angeles, 110-99 behind the efforts of their newest starting point guard.
Kendall Marshall was drafted 13th overall out of North Carolina in the 2013 draft because he had one NBA skill – he was an elite passer. He was considered the purest of point guards but also a limited athlete and poor shooter. He struggled as a rookie with the Phoenix Suns and was traded along with Marcin Gortat and Shannon Brown to the Washington Wizards during the preseason this year. He was immediately waived and was not picked up by another team.
Marshall then landed in the D-League with the Delaware 87ers, where he played well. Its no understatement to say there was little demand for his services. Mike D’Antoni, the patron saint of marginal NBA players, saw something in Marshall and more importantly was desperate for a point guard.
Whatever Marshall’s flaws, and he has them, he can run a team. To his credit, he has worked to improve his shot put like jumper to be at least a threat to score.
The Lakers dominated the first quarter, paced by Marshall’s 7 points and 5 assists. For the first time in many games, the Lakers’ ball movement was sharp and the offense mixed its halfcourt sets with productive isolations featuring Pau Gasol, who had 8 points on 4-6 from the field. Gasol had a spring to his step and displayed his vast repertoire of post moves against Derrick Favors. The Lakers led 30-12 after one.
In the second quarter, the Jazz went on a 13-6 run to pull within 12, 37-25. Marshall quickly made three assists on consecutive possessions, setting up Robert Sacre for a dunk off the pick and roll and Gasol for two easy scores. Gasol scored 8 consecutive points down the stretch as the Lakers took a 15 point lead with 2:34 remaining in the half. The Jazz scored 6 quick points and Marshall found Jodie Meeks for a three pointer at the buzzer. The Lakers led 52-40 at the break. Marshall had 7 points and 9 assists with 1 turnover. Gasol had 16 points on 8 for 12 shooting.
The Lakers opened the third quarter on fire, with Shawne Williams making consecutive threes and Ryan Kelly hitting a third. The Lakers led 72-53 at the 5:01 mark. Jodie Meeks scored 7 points to close out the quarter. Los Angeles led 83-67 after 3.
Gordon Hayward continued his strong play against the Lakers leading a 10-2 run to open the fourth, bringing the Jazz within 8 with 9:18 to play in regulation. In both games against the Jazz, Utah’s young bigs caused problems in the fourth quarter with their scoring and offensive rebounding. Enes Kanter, Jeremy Evans, and Derrick Favors gave the Lakers fits, combining for 15 points. The Jazz cut the lead to 4, 90-86, with 4:45 remaining. Kendall Marshall then set up Nick Young and Pau Gasol for scores and the Lakers pulled away late behind Young’s 11 points in the 4th.
The night belonged to Marshall who had 20 points and 15 assists with 1 turnover. Pau Gasol poured in 23 points with 17 rebounds and 8 assists. Young finished with 16 points. Jodie Meeks overcame a poor shooting night from long range and ended up with 18 points and 6 assists. As a team, the Lakers shot 52% from the field, 41% from 3, and had 33 assists. They outrebounded the Jazz and took care of the ball with only 10 turnovers.
For Utah, Gordon Hayward had 22 points and 6 assists. Richard Jefferson and Enes Kanter had 16 points apiece.
Mike D’Antoni protected Marshall by taking him off the much quicker Trey Burke. He defended Hayward instead. Hiding him defensively will be the way forward for the team, who will be without any of its other point guards for weeks still.
The Lakers play at the Denver Nuggets on Sunday.